Monday, November 5, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, the US gears up for Tuesday's elections, the issue of the Kurds gets some serious attention, the political crisis continues, and more.
As last month drew to a close, the US Dept of Veterans Affairs announced that the home loan program which was created as part of the GI Bill of Rights back in 1944 had awarded its 20 millionth home loan. The VA's Undersecretary For Benefits Allison Hickey declared, "The 20 millionth VA home loan is a major milestone and is a testament to VA's commitment to support and enhance the lives of Veterans, Servicemembers, their families and survivors. As a result of their service and sacrifice, as a group, they prove to be disciplined, reliable, and honorable -- traits that are ideal for this kind of national investment." The VA has a history page on the GI Bill of Rights of 1944 which opens:
It has been heralded as one of the most significant pieces of legislation ever produced by the federal government -- one that impacted the United States socially, economically and politically. But it almost never came to pass.
The Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944 -- commonly known as the GI Bill of Rights -- nearly stalled in Congress as members of the House and Senate debated provisions of the controversial bill.
Some shunned the idea of paying unemployed veterans $20 a week because they thought it diminished their incentive to look for work. Others questioned the concept of sending battle-hardened veterans to colleges and universities, a privilege then reserved for the rich.
Despite their differences, all agreed something must be done to help veterans assimilate into civilian life.
Much of the urgency stemmed from a desire to avoid the missteps following World War I, when discharged veterans got little more than a $60 allowance and a train ticket home.
Veterans of today's wars also have The Post 9/11 GI Bill. ("The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides financial support for education and housing to individuals with at least 90 days of aggregate service after September 10, 2001, or individuals discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days. You must have received an honorable discharge to be eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill.") Many of the leaders on the Post 9-11 GI BIll are no longer in the House -- the 2010 midterms saw a number of them lose their seats. It's another election year. Voting in the US is done on Tuesday. IAVA's Paul Rieckhoff (Daily Beast) looks at what the Barack Obama and Mitt Romney campaigns have addressed or haven't addressed in their campaigns:
Eleven years ago in October, American military forces launched a war in Afghanistan that's still raging today. One would think that the war and the postwar care for the veterans that fought in Afghanistan and Iraq would be a crucial part of the 2012 presidential campaign, but that hasn't been the case.
In stump speeches and campaign pit stops across the country, President Obama and Governor Romney have made cursory references to veterans' care and benefits, but offered little in the way of specifics. And in the debates, the candidates spent more time talking about Big Bird than they did vets' policy. ObamaCare versus "Obama Cares" and "Romnesia" are funny, but also a sad commentary on the state of our political discourse. The Main Streets in countless American towns and cities are pushed aside for carefully crafted PR zingers.
But whoever wins on Tuesday, America's 2.5 million post-9/11 veterans -- more than 60,000 in Ohio alone -- will be looking to the president to address the education, housing, employment, and health-care challenges they face every day -- and to do so substantively, the same way they have tackled the fallout from Hurricane Sandy. Just because the war in Afghanistan will end someday doesn't mean it already has, nor does it mean that the effects of it are going away anytime soon. Quite the contrary, in fact.
I have friends in IAVA but I'm not a fan of Paul's. That's long established here. So hopefully when I now say that he has written a very important column, it means something if even one of his detractors, like myself, praise it.
I can't praise Barack's lie that he ended the Iraq War, a lie he makes while also negotiating with Nouri al-Maliki to send more US troops back into Iraq. As Tim Arango (New York Times) reported at the end of September, "Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions. At the request of the Iraqi government, according to General Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence." Kevin Gosztola (FireDogLake) notes:
Each paper praised Obama for ending the Iraq War. The Chicago Tribune suggested, "He set and stuck to a withdrawal schedule for U.S. troops in Iraq." Actually, in 2008, George W. Bush negotiated the withdrawal schedule. It also must be noted the Pentagon wanted to keep 10,000 to 20,000 troops in Iraq as "trainers" and "anti-terrorism forces. They lowered the figure to around 3,000. The Pentagon, along with the Obama administration pressed for immunity for any US troops that would remain in the country. That was met with opposition and, when immunity could not be ensured, the withdrawal officially began.
The US presence did not completely end though. According to the State Department, 16,000 to 17,000 US personnel would remain in the country along with about 5,500 military contractors. The US occupation would also leave behind the world's largest embassy in Baghdad.
How did Obama mark the end of the war? Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick in their book, The Untold History of the United States, gave it proper treatment:
…Obama welcomed the troops home at Fort Bragg. But instead of honestly treating the Iraq War as the unmitigated disaster it had been for the United States, drawing some poignant lessons, and thanking those gathered for their sacrifice, Obama felt compelled to cloak the war's end in the kind of patriotic drivel that conjured up the powerfully haunting words of Rudyard Kipling, the erstwhile proponent of empire, who had convinced his son to enlist in the First World War, only to have him die his first day of combat. In his "Epitaphs of the War," Kipling wrote, "If any question why we died / Tell them, because our fathers lied." Obama's lies would sear just as deeply and painfully. "We're leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people," he told the troops, praising their "extraordinary achievement." The "most important lesson," he declared, was "about our national character…that there's nothing we Americans can't do when we stick together…And that why the United States military is the most respected institution in our land." He commended their willingness to sacrifice "so much for a people that you had never met," which, he insisted, was "part of what makes us special as Americans. Unlike the old empires, we don't make these sacrifices for territory or for resources. We do it because it's right. There can be no fuller expression of America's support for self-determination than our leaving Iraq to its people. That says something about who we are."…
If anyone thinks that the war is over in Iraq, I have only to open my "At a Glance" calendar where I have tried to note the number of Iraqi casualties each day over the last nine plus years: deaths due to explosions, bombs, assassinations. Just a few randomly selected numbers from 2012 (these are the number of dead, the number of wounded is of course much greater). 63, 54, 78, 97, 28, 36, 105, 24, 41, 115 ... the list goes on and on.
One of my hopes on this trip is to visit Iraqi families who have had to return from Syria. Having fled the violence in Iraq, they came to Syria where I met them as refugees. Now they are threatened once again, and there are no countries willing to take them. Many have returned to Iraq, and we are anxious to know how they are doing.
While some deserve praise, some don't. Such as a spinner spinning online in an attempt to bully/trick people into voting for Barack. First, you would have been ripped apart in an undergrad poli sci class for your gross ignorance -- forget an advanced class. No, we don't have to vote. Voting is a right in the United Staes. So is owning a gun. I don't own a gun. Second, Ralph Nader did work in 2000 regarding party building and ballot access. After that? He continued to do strong work on ballot access in terms of raising awareness. As for helping to build the Green Party? The reality that the Green Party was 'conflcited' (co-opted) is why he didn't run with them in 2004 or 2008. Distortions of Nader only reveal your sublime ignorance. In the future, stick to horse race 'coverage' because your tired little mind might be able to handle that. As for the accusation that the Greens only show up at election time? First, isn't that the only time the Democrats and Republicans remember that there are voters out there? Second, your ignorance of what takes places in the fifty states is exceeded only by your ego assuming you could absorb that information even if the media bothered to cover it. The Michigan Green Party, to name but one state, never stops working. From your computer screen, you may think you see the world. But being aware of what's happening on the ground would require you traveling to many states -- something I've done repeatedly since the month before the Iraq War started.
Next topic on the elections: Barack Obama supporters better get outraged. Republicans vote. I'm sorry if that's upsetting news to anyone. I've done every task in the world on campaigns during my lifetime and that includes getting out the vote on election day. I've driven seniors to polls, you name it. I live in a state that has gone Democratic in the last five elections. We also are still voting -- due to the time difference -- when most states have stopped. Regardless of what the prediction or, yes, 'call' is, Republcians still show up to vote in those last hours. Many Democrats don't. Point being, this nonsense of "Barack's going to win!" It's hurting Barack and anyone who tells you otherwise doesn't live in the PST time zone which regularly sees how this sort of 'the winner's known' talk effects turnout. It may hurt him just a little, it may hurt him a lot. But you should be demanding that media stop saying he or anyone has won.
Democrats are more likely to be working class and they're more likely to have obstacles to voting. You start saying that Barack's won, your hurting his turnout and you're hurting the Democratic Party turnout. Not just in the PST states, but in all the states. Encouraging people not to vote -- calling the election the day before the vote is encouraging people not to vote -- can also hurt Senate races, House races and state and municipal races. People are busy enough as it is, don't give those who want to vote but are buy a reason not to. (And I'd make this point if Mitt Romney were the one the press was saying would win Tuesday. Although I'd be less concerned about turnout being depressed as a result because, again, Republicans vote regardless. CBS could call it for Barack at 7:30 PM EST tomorrow and Republicans on the West Coast would still show up at the polls.)
In addition, the growing prevalence of early voting has provided analysts with a more concrete metric – allowing prognosticators to base their assumptions not only on what polls suggest will happen on Election Day, but also on what early voting patterns suggest has already happened.
English lit is not poli sci. Maybe people who didn't study poli sci shouldn't be presenting as 'experts.' Liz's comment above? You have nothing to base a conclusion on. The votes have not been counted. Not even the early votes. Not the mail-in votes. Not the votes that will be cast on Tuesday. You have nothing. You don't have early prognostics.
You have polling which can be an indication. Provided the pollsters are doing their job correctly and provided that people aren't pissed off at the pollsters. Meaning when someone says, "I'm doing a poll . . .," respondents aren't thinking, "I hate that polling firm/outlet, I'm going to f**k with this man/woman and lie about my vote."
Predictions don't win elections, votes do. Nate Silver and the rest have already destroyed whatever was left of campaign reporting because the coverage is even less about issues. (In the film, Network, these worthless types were represented by the character Sybil the Soothsayer. Remember when so many on the left couldn't stop citing Network and insisting we heed its cautionary tales?) Now they're taking over the last hours of the election as well. Supporters of the nonsense Nate does like to claim, "Well sports . . ." Correct me if I'm wrong (and I may be, I don't follow sports) but predicting a winner in sports is based upon using their past performance in that season. There has been no 'win' in a general election this year that you can base another one on. Tomorrow is the contest.
I don't care who you vote for. If you choose not to vote in a race or not to vote in all races because you make that decision, that's your choice and be happy with it. (I will not be voting in the presidential race, no candidate earned my vote. I will be voting in other races) But I do care that whomever is elected is elected by the people and not by the media. The media overwhelmingly wants Barack to win. That's been obvious for some time. But preening and strutting before an election may not bring about their desired result.
Trusting the media worked out real well in 2000, didn't it? And it worked out real well with the Iraq War, too, right? (Wrong in both cases.) Do you really want to be a Quil Lawrence? March 7, 2010, Iraq held parliamentary elections. March 8th, Quil did what? Before votes were counted, Quil was on NPR's Morning Edition telling Steve Inskeep that Nouri did "very well." Maybe Barack will do "very well," too? "Very well," when the ballots were actually counted and Quil Lawrence had left the region and moved on to another story, translated as: Nouri's State of Law came in second to Iraqiya. Second place isn't winning in an election.
The political crisis continues in Iraq, not a surprise when the White House spat on the Iraqi Constitution and the will of the people to back second place Nouri over first place winner Iraqiya. All Iraq News reports MP Mohammed Jaafar al-Sadr is calling for Iraqi President Jalal Talabani to accelerate the resolution attempts. But what can be done? Saturday Ayad al-Tamimi (Al Mada) reported that negotiations had stalled as a result of disagreements with the National Alliance -- specifcially within the 'Reform Commission.' To avoid a National Conference, Nouri stalled and road blocked and then finally, in late spring, insisted what was needed was a Reform Commission. That turned out to be a paper. And all this time, Nouri and company have led people to believe that there was a paper. Turns out the paper has yet to be written but there are 'intentions' to write it, al-Tamimi notes. Yesterday, Wael Grace (Al Mada) reported a Kurdistan Alliance MP was stating State of Law (Nouri al-Maliki's political slate) was attempting to prevent a National Conference to resolve the political crisis. That seems plausible since Nouri's been attempting to do that since Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and Jalal Talabani first began calling for one nearly a year ago (December 21st).
The Tigris Operation continues with no US coverage. This is seen as yet another power grab by Nouri. Nouri is sending in military under his command to disputed Kirkuk. This has long been protected by the Peshmerga (Kurdish forces). Nouri has refused to implement Article 140 of the Constitution (hold a census and referendum) on Kirkuk to resolve the dispute and his decision to send in security forces is seen as laying the ground work for his ignoring the Constitution and just declaring Kirkuk to be part of the Baghdad-based government and not part of the Kurdistan Regional Government. (Kirkuk is oil rich.) Alsumaria reports that the Salahuddin Province's Student Council has called for Nouri to cancel the operation. Al Mada reports that Kurdistan Alliance MP Chuan Mohammed Taha has called out the operation and states that Nouri has gone beyond any powers listed in the Constitution. The RAND Corporation's Larry Hanauer examines the Kirkuk issue here.
The power grabs never stop with Nouri. Last month, he fired the Governor of the Central Bank (despite not having the authority to do that) and declared him a criminal (thereby running him out of the country). Sinan al-Shabibi had been the Governor of the Central Bank since 2003. In fact, he's still listed as such on the Central Bank's website whic notes:
Arabian Business Power 500 - Listed among The World's Most Influential Arabs, June 2012.
Arabian Business Power 500 - Listed among The World's Most Influential Arabs, March 2011.
The New Breed/Listed among the Time-CNN 25 Business Influentials, December 2004.
Governor of the Central Bank of Iraq since 2003.
Consultant on Trade, Debt and Finance to UNCTAD.
Was until retirement a Senior economist at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
Undertaken research on Financial flows, Economics of disarmament, Balance of Payments, External debt, Globalisation, and the Iraqi Economy.
Managed projects for the implementation of policy, analytical and institutional aspects of debt management including the implementation of UNCTAD's Debt Management and Financial Analysis System (DMFAS) in several Arab countries. Familiar with the macroeconomic and operational aspects of the "Debt Sustainability Model (DSM)" of the World Bank, and with the HIPC initiative.
Coordinated UNCTAD's work on OPEC financial flows to other developing countries resulting in the production of numerous reports on the subject.
High-level contacts with Government Officials especially in the Arab region.
Delivered numerous lectures and talks on the "Economic Prospects of the Iraqi Economy" in many international forums.
Extensive travel experience in connection with work on debt management, OPEC Financial Flows and the work on the Iraqi economy.
How did such an applauded figure end up up charged with crimes? Dropping back to October 21st, " In other scandals, Nouri fired Sinan al-Shabibi as Governor of the Central Bank (despite Article 103 of the Constitution making clear that he doesn't have that right -- Parliament does). Since then a warrant's been put out for al-Shabibi who is said to be in Europe. An unnamed MP tells Al Mada that Nouri fired al-Shabibi because the man refused to loan Nouri $63 billion that Nouri said was for the government's budget. Al Mada notes that Moqtada al-Sadr is calling out Nouri's attempts to politicize the Central Bank and he also asks where is the reform that Nouri promised in early 2011?" Shortly afterward, Prashant Rao (AFP) reported, "The targeting of Iraq's well-respected central bank chief appears to be a move by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to consolidate power and sends a bad message to international investors, experts and diplomats say." Long time Iraq observer Joost Hiltermann of the International Crisis Group told Rao, "The Maliki government will claim it (the move against Shabibi) is part of long-standing efforts to root out corruption. It looks more like a long-standing effort to gain control over independent institutions."
But that's really more what happened. The how he ended up charged goes back further. Back to the days when Nouri was having the then-head of Iraq's Electoral Commission arrested because he wanted to take over that independent body. At the same time, he was attempting to take over Iraq's Central Bank, insisting it must come under his authority -- he targeted all the independent institutions in his attempted power grab. Fear of the Arab Spring spreading into Iraq prevented Nouri from following up on that desire. Now he's gone in the back door. Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) reports Nouri is accused of attempting to stack the Central bank with Dawa personnel in order to control it. (Dawa is Nouri's political party, State of Law is his political slate.)
Violence continues in Iraq and is encouraged by Nouri's repeated targeting of political rivals and non-stop mass arrests. All Iraq News reports a Baghdad car bombing near a mosque has resulted in 1 death and six people being left injured. In an update, they note the death toll has risen to 3 with eight injured. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports a Taji car bombing claimed 1 life and left seven people injured.
In addition, Alsumaria reports that Turkish war planes bombed erbil Sunday night for approximately one hour, setting at least one section of a forest on fire. Hurriyet Daily News adds that the latest attacks, beginning Saturday night, are taking place under the name "Panther Operation" and that Saturday's assault lasted two hours. They are targeting the PKK. Aaron Hess (International Socialist Review) described the PKK in 2008, "The PKK emerged in 1984 as a major force in response to Turkey's oppression of its Kurdish population. Since the late 1970s, Turkey has waged a relentless war of attrition that has killed tens of thousands of Kurds and driven millions from their homes. The Kurds are the world's largest stateless population -- whose main population concentration straddles Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria -- and have been the victims of imperialist wars and manipulation since the colonial period. While Turkey has granted limited rights to the Kurds in recent years in order to accommodate the European Union, which it seeks to join, even these are now at risk."
I am not arguing or asking Turkey to give the Kurds rights, but I am asking who gave Turkey or Islamists the right to deny Kurdish basic rights, such as birth rights to a right to life, a right to speak, a right to worship, and a right to a fair trial before a judge? If God has created the human race, skin color, languages, as well as tribes, and rights are natural, inalienable, God-given, and self-evident, then why do TUrkey and most Islamist countries deny the Kurds those rights? Today more than 40 million Kurds are denied basic rights not by Christians or Jews but by Muslim countries; yet, most Muslim countries consider Islam to be the only religion that administers true justice, tolerance, and peace on earth, and consider Christians, Jews, and devotees of other religions as unjust, intolerant, and cruel. But what about the more than 40 million Kurds who live in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria being denied their basic rights? Why are mroe than 683 Kurdish people participating in a hunger strike in Turkey and agreeing to die? They have been on a hunger strike for more than 53 days, and the days move them closer to death. Because they are like any other human being, demanding to live in dignity and because death for them is the last resort to voice their plight even though they cherish human life and liberty, but will the world listen as the Kurds show solidarity in their suffering? Will those who learn of their hunger strike pressure Turkey not to play the hypocrite when it comes to the Kurdish issue but to value human beings? Will they pressure Turkey to let the kurds decide how to live and who to worship, and let the Kurds, not Turks, Arabs, or Persians, decide their destiny?
It will not be easy, but the uncertainty and plasticity in the region today offers an opportunity to secure a Kurdish homeland and remedy the capricious map-making of the early 20th century. Iraq is threatening to split into the pre-Iraq Sunni, Shia and Kurdish divisions of the Ottoman Empire, with the Kurds semi-independent and the Iran-allied Shiites ruling the Sunnis. Iran's economy is in free-fall. Syria will soon have no central control and no choice. And while no country is eager to surrender a fifth of its population, Turkey would do well to get ahead of this issue -- ending the vicious, ongoing war with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), saving countless lives and positioning themselves to reap the benefits of a long-term strategic alliance to counterbalance Iranian influence. Not to mention, membership in the European Union will forever be out of reach for a Turkey at war with itself.
For proof of what's possible, look no further than Iraqi Kurdistan, a pro-American, pro-Israel and semi-autonomous parliamentary democracy most Americans have never heard of. Nurtured by an American no-fly zone in the aftermath of the first Gulf War, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) was established under the Iraqi Constitution in 2005, a stunning testament to the success of Muslim representative government. Of more than 4,800 American soldiers killed in the brutal battles for Iraq, not a single one has lost their life -- and no foreigner has been kidnapped -- within the borders of Iraqi Kurdistan. Boasting two international airports, a booming oil industry and a dawning respect for the rights of women, this 15,000 square-mile territory of nearly four million Kurds is the one part of President George W. Bush's "Mission Accomplished" that was actually accomplished.
Building on this unanticipated success, the U.S. should rethink its previous opposition to an independent greater Kurdistan and recognize that the advantages of a friendly, democratic and strategically-positioned ally far outweigh the outdated assumption that the Kurds' national liberation would result in regional conflagration.
The blog passed one million hits over a year ago. But something was happening: both the news media and the American public were suffering from "war fatigue." Interest in the blog was waning.
Blog viewership dropped to under 200 hits a day, and even though I was posting fresh material on Facebook and Twitter, it became more and more obvious to me that the American public was no longer very interested in a conflict that, in the case of the Afghan war, had entered its 12th year.
I'm a realist and I'm fully aware that after so many years it is hard for people to continue to care deeply about a conflict that doesn't seem to have any end goal or sense of mission. So a few weeks ago, I decided I would stop the blog after the election. (I'm leaving the door open just a bit to a last-minute change of heart.) If I do stop posting, however, I intend to keep it on the Internet as a historical reference for anyone interested in the Iraq and Afghan wars.
You can check out his site (I never knew about the site until a few minutes ago). At some point, most will say "enough" (I would love to and am still weighing whether or not we'll do six more months). I do agree that there is war fatigue. I also think there are other issues at play. (Including the lack of interest on the part of the US media which tends to make a number of people believe that the end credits rolled, the lights came up and it's all over.) I'm sorry that he doesn't feel there's an audience (our audience has only increased in 2012 -- the increase has largely come from outside the US). I'm sadder that he feels you do something based on numbers. But mainly, I'm saddened by the fact that he's obviously put a great deal of time in trying to keep Iraq and Afghanistan in the national discourse and he feels his work didn't matter or doesn't now. What he has done matters and, even if you were unaware of the site until this evening (like me), it being out there did and does make a difference. Whether he continues with it or shuts it down, thank you, Bill Corcoran for focusing on something that actually mattered in a landscape that's otherwise so much fluff from sea to shining sea.